Thursday, 1 December 2016

Building Community in Ontario Summer Theatre

by Rachel Kennedy, Professional Theatre and Education Manager

Theatre Ontario Executive Director Bruce Pitkin and I hit the road on November 10th and headed to Bobcaygeon for this year’s Ontario Summer Theatre (OST) Annual General Meeting.

We decided to avoid the hustle and bustle of major highway traffic and opted for the scenic route instead. What a great choice! The ride from Toronto was only about two hours and treated us to incredible views of the last colours of autumn falling along rolling hillsides and small town streets. We even managed a quick stop in Lindsay for breakfast at Jane’s Kountry Kitchen (arguably the best bagel I’ve ever had) and were then on our way to Globus Theatre’s Lakeview Arts Barn (LAB) to begin day one of the festivities. We were greeted upon arrival by our hosts from the Globus team, Artistic Director Sarah Quick and Artistic Producer James Barrett along with a spread of baked goods and refreshments. After a quick round of coffee and “hello”s we took our seats at the roundtable and so began our 2016 AGM!

Sophie Andreou presents at the OST Annual General Meeting
Ontario Summer Theatre (OST - formerly ASTRO), was founded in 1985 and acts as a network of professional theatres throughout the province which are committed to cultivating and celebrating great summer theatre. The companies gather for an AGM each year to foster partnerships, develop collaborative marketing strategies, and share the successes and challenges of their summer seasons with other member theatres. This year the group decided to take this meeting and expand it to a 2-day event so that we could invite speakers to come and give presentations on topics of mutual interest to all of our members. We had Dustyn Wales start the morning off with a presentation from the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, followed by Sophie Andreou who spoke about the use of social media as a low-cost marketing and branding tool for theatre companies, and after lunch we had Sara Meurling and David Nairn discuss the different types of PACT memberships and their benefits. Each speaker was engaging and touched on a lot of tips and tricks that OST members can use to help protect and promote their shows while bringing new audiences to their communities.

Knickers at Globus Theatre in the Summer of 2016.
Photo by Sam Tweedle, Kawartha Now
After the presentations were finished we were treated to a surprise performance of selected scenes from Sarah Quick’s play Sunshine Express and when we returned to our conference space the Lakeview Arts Barn transformed once again as staff began to roll out plate after plate of delicious dinners! Needless to say, if you haven’t done dinner and a show at Globus Theatre yet, you have been missing out. Over our meals we discussed how everyone’s year went, shared a few laughs and really got the chance to get to know each other in person (a rare opportunity these days with so much digital communication)! This was truly an invaluable experience for everyone around the table as it allowed professionals from different regions to get together and create a sense of community with one another.

This feeling carried over into the next morning and our meeting was filled with lively discussion about new possibilities, fueled by the presentations and conversations from the day before. Bruce and I headed back to Toronto after the meeting adjourned and enjoyed another beautiful drive through the countryside, still talking excitedly about what was to come for the 2017 summer theatre season. 

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